Poor little apple

The church we visited in Dalarö on Saturday has a rich maritime history. This would be because a lot of ships were wrecked in the harbour. In fact, marine divers can do a tour of many of the wrecks. There’s even an online brochure detailing the more well known wrecks.

One of the wrecks is of the Riksäpplet, a Swedish Admiralty ship built in Gothenburg in 1661 and completed in 1663. She was built by an English shipbuilder called Francis Sheldon (1612-1692) who worked as a master shipbuilder in Gothenburg, arriving in April 1659.

At first, Sheldon built the Jupiter, but she was quickly deemed unfit for service and was sunk in 1666. However, things improved with the completion of Riksäpplet, and he built a load more ships afterwards. Sheldon moved to Stockholm for a bit but, eventually, the Swedish navy felt his methods were too expensive and turned, instead to a Dutch shipbuilder. Sheldon returned to England. He must have missed Sweden too much because he was back, working at the Riga shipyard until 1683.

In the meanwhilst, Riksäpplet was not having a good time. Having been launched, she headed off for Stockholm where the navy lived. She then sat there, unused, for the next decade. Then, inexplicably, she was used as a ferry to pick up King Karl Xl’s uncle from Holstein.

That seems a bit excessive. She was 48 metres long and 12 metres wide. Mind you, it’s comparable with one human being needing a couple of airplanes, one being a massive great Airbus A321, for random joy flights. I guess some things never change.

So, the Riksäpplet heads off for Holstein, picks up the uncle of the king and returns to Stockholm. That appears to be the first official voyage.

The next we hear of Riksäpplet is in 1675 when she is needed to help repel the combined Danish-Dutch navy. This was not a success. Not because of anything the Danish-Dutch navy did but because, ten days after sailing, the fleet had to return because of raging disease aboard the ships.

A year later, having cleared up the disease (there’s no mention of masks or social distancing), they had another go, but this was also a disaster. The Swedish fleet was no match for the Danish-Dutch navy. Two massive warships were blown out of the water, killing 1500 sailors. The rest of the Swedish fleet turned tail and headed back to Stockholm.

(Incidentally, one of the Swedish ships was the Krona, another Sheldon build.)

Dodging firepower, the remains of the fleet sought shelter wherever it could, in the Stockholm archipelago. Riksäpplet ended up hiding near Dalarö but, rather than safety, was battered by a huge storm. She was torn away from her mooring and dashed to bits on a skerry (small rocky islet of which there are many in the archipelago).

As if to remind the gods of the sea, forever, the memory of such a sad ship, the skerry was named Äpplet.

But the Riksäpplet story does not end there.

There’s a gate at Stockholm City Hall’s northern vault which is made from bog (or black) oak and, may have been salvaged from the wreck. More importantly, the baptismal in Dalarö church was made from black oak taken from the Riksäpplet. It was made in 1936 to a design by Einar Lundberg (1889-1978).

Lundberg was an architect who did a lot of church restoration work throughout Sweden. And, it seems, designed baptismals.

The next time we visit, I really must get a photo.

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